Song of the Day: “Young at Heart” by Cleo Laine

You’re no doubt more familiar with the Frank Sinatra version, which is not one of his best. He sings it like he’s addressing a room of elderly parents. It’s not his fault. The song has built-in nostalgia.

Cleo Laine’s version, though, takes it even further. It starts with an eery harp and string arrangement that recalls a stock dream sequence from some ’40s melodrama.

Her vocals come in likewise: hypnotic, whispery and distant. She highlights existential undertones of Carolyn Leigh’s lyrics (Johnny Richards wrote the tune):

Don’t you know that it’s worth
Every treasure on earth
To be young at heart?

For as rich as you are,
It’s much better by far
To be young at heart.

But if you should survive
To a hundred-and-five
Look at all you derive
Just by being alive!

And here is the best part,
You have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart.

Get it? The lesson is that we’re all going to die. How you live is important. Pay attention!

freedom politics war

Open Letter to the President Regarding Manning and Snowden

Dear President Obama,

I write to you as a citizen of the United States of America to ask you to pardon Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden for their actions connected to the release of classified documents to the public.

Manning was sentenced recently to 30 years in prison. If Snowden were within the reach of U.S. law, I’m sure he would likely get a similar punishment.

While such punishment is appropriate for our nation’s spies and traitors, it’s clear to me that these two are not such. They are, like Daniel Elsberg, whistleblowers and heroes whose law-breaking was an act of civil disobedience done to expose greater wrong-doing.

We can only be a nation “of the people, by the people and for the people” as long as we, the people, are allowed oversight of what is being done in our name. Our society cannot discuss or make informed choices as voters if critical issues such as the torture of prisoners, widespread surveillance of our phone and internet traffic, extrajudicial killing of civilians and the destruction of evidence are kept hidden from us.

After Snowden’s leaks to the Guardian, you said that you welcome the public discussion of privacy and security. Would that discussion have been possible without those leaks? The answer is no. Senator Ron Wyden tried to start that conversation before the leaks occurred by asking NSA director James Clapper during his testimony before Congress if the agency gathered “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper dissembled, saying “No sir. Not wittingly.” Snowden’s leaks are the only way we know that this is not true.

This is why I am appealing to you to grant clemency for both of these people. They did not hand the information secretly to foreign powers. They did not take action for personal gain, but rather for the benefit of the public and at great personal risk. As to whether the information they uncovered aids our enemies or threatens our interests in the world, I respectfully argue that the uncovering of this information is not nearly as damaging as the actions that have been uncovered. I see their action, though illegal, as heroic effort to expose the wrongdoing of others.

Please, Mr. President, pardon Manning and offer Snowden leniency that would enable him to return home.

Thank you,

Porter Hall
Bainbridge Island, Wash.

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For the Love of Gun

Sig Sauer P226I woke up this morning to hear the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial: not guilty. I’m dismayed by this news. The broad facts of the incident that killed Trayvon Martin are these:

  1. Martin was unarmed, walking back to a house where he was a guest
  2. Zimmerman, an armed resident paroling the neighborhood in no official capacity, suspected Martin for being a burglar and started following him.
  3. Police dispatch told Zimmerman to not follow Martin, but he did anyway
  4. A struggle ensued between the two
  5. Zimmerman used his gun to kill Martin.

What’s most disturbing is that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law permits this to happen. It allows people to use deadly force if they feel their life is in danger.

Zimmerman’s life may have been in danger, but he put himself into that danger. The gun on his hip led him to overestimate his own abilities.

And this is why America loves guns. They immediately change the power calculus in any confrontation. For millions of years, the stronger, larger animal usually won. Guns change that math in favor of the person with their finger on the trigger.

If Zimmerman didn’t have a gun, would he have still gone after Martin? Of course not. The gun was the central prop in his policeman fantasy. It’s what gave him his power. It’s what made up for his lack of ability and experience.

There was a dangerous man in the neighborhood that night, but it wasn’t Trayvon Martin. It was George Zimmerman. Florida’s gun laws—and America’s gun obsession—made Zimmerman a dangerous man and condone his recklessly lethal behavior. It is a shame and an embarrassment that the jury found him innocent of second-degree murder.

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Let Congress Know How You Feel About CISPA

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Wake Up, America: We Are All Screwed by the Super Rich

bicycle Uncategorized

Tax Bikes for Highways? Tax Shoes.

An open letter to Representatives Sherry Appleton and Drew Hansen and Senator Christine Rolfes:

I am your constituent and bicycling is very important to me. The proposed tax on bicycles to fund the transportation bill is counter productive for a number of reasons. Despite what Representative Ed Orcutt from the 20th Legislative District believes, bicycling does not add more CO2 to our atmosphere than driving.

Besides, when a government taxes something specifically—like bicycle purchases—it is best done when that something is a net negative for the public as a whole, like drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes OR DRIVING A CAR.

Even worse—this 5% tax on a $500 bicycle is proportionately much higher than the 0.7% excise tax on new cars. And this tax will do nothing to improve the municipal streets most of us ride our bikes on. Taxing bikes to pay for highways? Might as well tax shoes, too.

You know this is unfair. You know that bicycling reduces traffic and wear on our roads. You know that bicycling lowers our shared health costs. Help educate your ignorant colleagues in Olympia and get this bike tax out of the highway package.


Porter Hall
Bainbridge Island

death history war

The Equivalence of Tragedy, Part II

20130213-064640.jpgI did a little research and I found that it might be true, depending on one’s definition of “killed in combat.” That, in itself, is an ugly question. But it’s just one of a few ugly questions this poster suggests. The main one is why would anyone compare two different tragedies in this way?

Does it mean that a year of drunk driving accidents and total Vietnam combat kills would be equally as bad had their numbers been the same?

And just what kind of trick is being pulled by comparing numbers of one year’s “killed and injured” to a decade of “killed in combat?”

I think I get what they’re trying to say even though their message is ham-fisted and oblivious. “You know that drunk driving is a stupid thing to do, just like you know that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was stupid. You know that it’s not just wreckless, it’s murderous.”

I deeply empathize with all who have lost friends or family members to drunk driving or combat. Comparing one to another this way, though, is confusing and threatens to abuse the memory of those who died in either of these ways. But, since it is begun, I will finish with some actual facts:

  • U.S. killed and injured annually by alcohol-related car accidents: 450,000-500,000
    • According to the NHTSA, Year 2000 total fatalities: 13,989
    • And year 2000 total injuries: 468,780
  • According to Wikipedia, total combat deaths from Vietnam War: between 451,000 and 1.16 million
    • This figure does not include an estimated 245,000 to 2 million Vietnamese civilian dead or those who died in Cambodia or Laos.
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Zombie Show!

My wife and I love “The Walking Dead,” but it’s an intense show. So intense that we often have to watch something else before going to bed so that it doesn’t influence our dreams.

We’ve even given the show a nickname, because “The Walking Dead” only underlines these characters’ grim fates. We call it “The Zombie Show.”

And given that the existing theme song is one of the creepiest things about this show, I’ve even started imagining a zippy, 1950s-style TV theme song for it:

Zombie Show!
It’s the Zombie Show!
I’d love to stay
But I’ve got to go
‘Cause the Zombie Show is on!

I’m gonna watch some walkers
Try to eat some shooters

The Zombie Show is on!

death history

The Equivalence of Tragedy

I saw this poster in the ferry terminal and thought. ‘That can’t be true:’



Because I Don’t Want to Get Sick

On the ferry this morning, I sat down at one of the galley tables next to a woman.

I’ve been dealing with allergies, I think, for the last week, which produce a large amount of mucus. During the night, it sinks down into my lungs and in the mornings, I cough it up. Pretty, I know.

So, I had a few coughs this morning sitting there and I could sense this woman squirming in her seat each time I do. Each time I cough, I’m careful to turn away from her and others, cough into the crook of my arm or into my handkerchief.

After a few coughs, she asks, “Are you getting over the flu or something?”

“No,” I say. “It’s allergies.”

“Because I do not want to get sick. I know there’s a lot of flu going around. I mean, I would just get up and move…”

“It’s not the flu,” I said. I wish I had thought to say, “Then you should get a flu shot.

No one wants to get sick, of course, but it was the imperiousness of her statement that struck me. I expect that the public will maintain a bubble of virus protection around me.

And, really, let’s say that I was infectious. Wasn’t she already exposed when she brought it up? We are constantly exposed to the public. Our immune systems are in constant negotiation. Have a little faith in evolution.